December 29, 2016 – According to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) annual Cold Weather Survey, over 22,000 households will start the winter season without heat-related utility service or are using unsafe heating sources. While those numbers are concerning, they represent a decrease from last year’s survey.
This year’s survey data reveals that 24 percent fewer families are without electric utility service than last winter, while 7 percent fewer households are depending on unsafe heating sources due to termination of electric service. There are also 22 percent fewer former natural gas customers depending on potentially unsafe heating sources.
The PUC urges Pennsylvanians to contact their utility companies about programs that may offer assistance, such as the PUC-required Low-Income Usage Reduction Programs (LIURP) and Customer Assistance Programs (CAP). Additional programs are available for those who have individuals in the household who may be considered ”vulnerable”—those over 65 years old or under the age of two.
Gladys M. Brown, chair of the PUC, said, “Our Cold Weather Survey shows that thousands of households continue to struggle, and we urge those residents to take advantage of the numerous programs available to help them restore utility service and stay warm and safe this winter.” According to the PUC, these programs provide more than 767,000 Pennsylvanians with utility assistance, valued at over $418 million annually.
The PUC emphasizes that consumers without utility service should understand their rights and responsibilities. Additional options for assistance may be available for not only those considered “vulnerable,” but for those who are seriously ill or are facing other unique circumstances such as a “protection from abuse order.”
Out of Pennsylvania’s eight major electric distribution companies, seven of them reported improvements in their Cold Weather Survey data, as did five of the nine natural gas distribution companies. This is the second year in a row that has shown improvements in the numbers of families starting the winter season without heat-related utility service or using unsafe heating methods.
“Despite steady improvements, there are still many households in-need across the state,” said Brown.
The percent changes mentioned above correspond to the following data, from the PUC 2016 Cold Weather Survey:
- 6,949 residences are without safe electric heating, including 6,565 households without electric service and 384 households that are heating with potentially unsafe heating sources.
- 15,076 residences are without safe natural gas heating, including 13,941 households without natural gas service and 1,135 households that are heating with potentially unsafe heating sources.
- Additionally, 11,653 residences where electric service was terminated and 4,232 residences where natural gas service was terminated now appear to be vacant.
- Note: Some households may be without both electric and natural gas service, resulting in a double-counting of some households.
Sources: Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission